Nootropics are particular substances, capable of increasing the cognitive abilities of an individual. However, there is often a great deal of confusion over the term “nootropics”. In fact, depending on the countries in which it is used, it takes on different meanings.
In the United States, as well as in other countries, the concept of nootropic substances is superimposed on the concept of “smart drugs”,
a term that refers to a large set of substances (both drugs and plant substances) that act at the level of the central nervous system and that increase the “performance” of an individual at a general level. In Italy, on the contrary, the concept of smart drugs takes on another meaning. In our country, in fact, smart drugs are the so-called “smart drugs”,
that is all those compounds (natural or synthetic) whose use is legal and not prohibited by law, but which may contain active ingredients with psychoactive action. whose use is illegal. However, the “nootropics – smart drugs” association is also spreading a lot in Italy. In fact, many now use the two terms as synonyms. In the medical field, however, when we talk about nootropic substances, we usually refer to particular drugs defined, in fact, nootropics and which are used for the treatment of various neurological diseases characterized mostly by cognitive deficits.
The introduction of the class of so-called nootropic drugs was proposed in the 1970s by the pharmacologist Corneliu E. Giurgea, who, in 1964, was the first to synthesize the most famous nootropic drug still used in therapy: piracetam. With the wording nootropic drugs, Giurgea wanted to indicate a set of active ingredients capable of improving the efficiency of higher brain functions (complex functions such as memory, reasoning, language, planning, learning, etc.).
From the studies conducted by Giurgea himself, it emerged that the substance he identified as a nootropic (piracetam) was able to promote learning skills, hindering their impairment and loss, but without producing side effects such as excitement or sedation, and without effects. toxic in the long term. However, given the complexity of the mechanisms underlying cognitive functions such as learning and memory, many remained rather skeptical of the results of the research conducted by Giurgea.
In any case, nowadays, this category of drugs is recognized, even if, more precisely, it is customary to speak of the category of “psychostimulant and nootropic drugs”.
This category includes several active ingredients, used for the treatment of various neurological diseases. Below, some of the most popular psychostimulant and nootropic drugs and their main characteristics will be outlined.